If you needed any more evidence that the U.S. and its allies began writing the book on attacking Libya without knowing how the final chapter would read, the evidence is now in.
Former colleague Jay Carney got a brush back pitch from this morning’s New York Times:
Mr. Obama, having returned from his trip to Latin America on Wednesday, met privately at the White House with his senior national security officials, but he made no public statements, even as reservations percolated in Congress and elsewhere about the conflict and its end game.
Asked about concerns raised the day before in a letter by the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said, “I think the president’s been very clear, and he has been asked and answered this question numerous times.”
In fact, Mr. Obama has not made clear what will happen if the international coalition succeeds in establishing control of the skies over Libya, but Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalists and rebels continue to attack and counterattack each other in a bloody, protracted stalemate.
What is becoming clear is that the U.S. and its key allies — Britain and France — appear increasingly likely to pound away at Muammar Gaddafi’s ground forces that attack Libyan civilians-cum-rebels, even as the broader NATO-run no-fly zone makes sure that none of the pretty much utterly destroyed Libyan air force gets off the ground. Bottom line: the U.S. obliterates the so-called Libyan air force and its air-defense network, and the other allies fly no-fly zones that are no longer needed.
This fog of war — about its command and control, not way down there on the battlefield — is what happens when Washington gets too clever by half. The U.S. is the world’s lone superpower, and it really can’t subcontract out international war-fighting to a coalition of lesser states and expect smooth sailing. But that’s precisely what Obama is trying to do with his hands-off approach. He was out of the country when the war began, so couldn’t give the traditional Oval Office address to the nation about sending its forces into harm’s way, and hasn’t dispatched a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to the fight.
This is all designed to minimize the sense of U.S. involvement. It’ll work so long as U.S. casualties remain at zero. Let’s hope his good fortune continues. The President would be in a world of hurt right now if one of those F-15 pilots whose plane crashed on Libyan soil earlier this week had been captured by Gaddafi’s forces rather than hailed as a hero by the rebels.